Aug. 20, 1997
1997 Season Outlook
The five seniors on Stanford's 1997 women's volleyball team - Kristin Folkl,
Barbara Ifejika, Debbie Lambert, Paula McNamee and Lisa Sharpley - are a national title
away from writing themselves and the Cardinal into the NCAA record book.
This year's senior class is a remarkable 92-6 (.939) since arriving on The
Farm in September of 1994, including a 61-5 record (.924) against ranked opponents. The
group has won two national titles (1994 and 1996), and is 47-0 at Maples Pavilion. With
a national championship this season, Folkl, Ifejika, Lambert, McNamee and Sharpley
would become the first women's volleyball players to win three national titles. If
Stanford wins the national title in 1997, it will also become the first school to win
four NCAA women's volleyball titles.
With five starters and 10 letterwinners returning from last year's
championship squad, the odds look to be in the Cardinal's favor.
"We finished strong last year by beating tough competition and dominating the
Final Four," Stanford women's volleyball coach Don Shaw said. "The question is 'How can
it get better?' We have a team that can be as good as any we've had, but with any team
things change from year to year. We only lost three players (Catherine Juillard, Eileen
Murfee, Nikki Otto), but they had a lot to do with our team chemistry."
Murfee is the only one of Stanford's four All-Americans that does not return
in 1997. Setter Lisa Sharpley and sophomore Kerri Walsh earned First Team All-America
honors, while senior outside hitter Kristin Folkl was named to the Second Team along
"Lisa, Kerri and Kristin are three of the best players in the nation," Shaw
said. "They provide not only physical ability, but allow us to do things tactically
both offensively and defensively that other teams aren't able to do."
But, as always, the road to the NCAA Final Four in Spokane, Washington will
not be an easy one. Stanford opens the season by hosting the State Farm/NACWAA
Tournament on Aug. 22-23, which includes Texas A&M and 1996 regional finalists BYU and
Penn State. Stanford will face Penn State just two weeks later in Connecticut, and also
plays host to national runner-up Hawaii. This is in addition to a grueling Pac-10
schedule, which features 1996 NCAA Tournament qualifiers Arizona, USC, Washington and
Washington State and traditional power UCLA.
"We're playing a lot of teams we're not familiar with this season like
Connecticut, Duke, Missouri, Nevada and North Carolina. We're also expecting another
tough year in the Pacific-10, where every match is a difficult one."
Here's a position-by-position look at the 1997 Stanford Cardinal:
Junior Sarah Neal, who earned a scholarship prior to the 1997
season, is the Cardinal's top back row player. Neal recorded 87 digs in 95 games in
1996, and also played in 13 of the Cardinal's 16 postseason games.
Sophomore walk-on Katherine Kuchenbecker will be used primarily in the back
row, while freshman walk-on Monica Sergott (Rancho Santa Fe, CA) is expected to see
action in the back row and as a reserve setter.
Senior Barbara Ifejika will start for the fourth year at middle
blocker, making her just the 14th four-year starter in Stanford history, along with
teammates Kristin Folkl and Lisa Sharpley. But, despite a career .317 hitting
percentage and 308 blocks, Ifejika's consistently high level of performance and
competitive drive have often been overshadowed by her more heralded teammates.
"Barbara is the unsung hero on this team. Everyone else gets the attention,
but Barbara has had three consecutive solid seasons for us."
Fifth-year senior Paula McNamee and freshman Jennifer Detmer are battling for
the second starting slot vacated by All-American Eileen Murfee. McNamee, who also
played basketball in 1996-97, appeared in 23 games last season and recorded 24 blocks
and 17 kills. McNamee will be challenged by 6-foot-3 freshman Jennifer Detmer, who was
named one of Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50 recruits.
"Paula will get her shot this year - we have her penciled in as a starter. She
has played well for us at times, and now is her chance. Jennifer has all the tools, and
a chance to be a dominating player. It will be interesting to see how she adjusts to
the next level."
Freshman Alex Newell, a versatile walk-on from London, England, will see the
majority of her time at middle blocker.
Senior Kristin Folkl and sophomore Kerri Walsh, arguably the best
1-2 combination to ever play collegiate women's volleyball, will spearhead a potent
Three-time All-American Folkl hit .305 last season with career-highs of 505
kills, 258 digs and 105 blocks. The two-sport star (basketball and volleyball) is
currently sixth on Stanford's all-time kill list with 1,228.
Walsh quickly established herself as one of the top players in the country in 1996,
earning First Team All-American, National Freshman of the Year and Final Four MVP
honors. The sophomore from nearby Saratoga, California, who is recovering from
off-season shoulder surgery, recorded 521 kills, the second-best single season total in
school history, 309 digs, 119 blocks and 47 aces.
"In Kristin and Kerri, we have terminators. From an attacking and blocking
standpoint, they give us options no other team has. They're great passers, and are also
strong defensively in the back row. Without a doubt, they're two of the best players in
The third outside hitter slot will be shared by senior Debbie Lambert and
sophomores Sarah Clark and Jaimi Gregory. All three made significant contributions last
season, with Lambert leading the way in the postseason. The Hawaii native hit .348 with
10 kills against the Rainbow Wahine in the national championship match, and finished
the year by accumulating 133 kills and 75 digs in 78 games.
Gregory appeared in 104 games, with most of that time coming in the back row.
She collected 227 digs and 101 kills in that time, and emerged as one of the top
defensive players on the squad. Clark collected 42 kills and 39 digs in 32 games before
suffering a sprained ankle prior to the Pacific Regionals that cut her season short.
"Debbie, Jaimi and Sarah all have a shot to play at the third outside hitter
position. No one has won that position going into the start of practice. Who plays that
slot will have a lot to do with the matchups on the other side of the net, and who's
playing well at the time."
Senior Lisa Sharpley will run the 5-1 set for the second consecutive year,
after splitting time at setter and outside hitter with All-American Cary Wendell her
first two seasons.
Sharpley, who is serving as the team's co-captain along with Kristin Folkl,
earned First Team All-American honors for the second consecutive year in 1996. Sharpley
ranks third in Stanford history with 3,010 assists.
"Lisa is one of the best setters to ever play here. She is the reason our
offense has been as successful as it has the past three seasons. I also expect Lisa to
be a tremendous asset to the national team after her career here is over."
Shaw has brought in two freshmen to share time at the setter slot behind
Sharpley. Lindsay Kagawa (Albany, CA) and Robyn Lewis (Long Beach, CA) could both step
in and contribute immediately.
"Our emphasis in recruiting this year was to get a setter, two middle blockers
and the best athlete available. I felt like we've covered two of those areas with our
setters, because they're both tremendous athletes. One will fill in as needed as Lisa's
back up, while the other may redshirt."